Untangling killer knots of neck and shoulder pain

neck and shoulder pain

Now that we’re in our thirties *sobs*, we notice our bodies more than ever because, well, they hurt.  It’s like we woke up one day, and suddenly, our muscles just started rebelling against us.  Whether it’s from sitting at a desk all day or working out too hard – though let’s be honest, it’s probably the sitting – we don’t stand the muscle pain. Repeat after me: Tech neck. If you felt sore from reading that, you probably have it. Spending long hours hunched over our computers? Check. Scrolling TikTok endlessly on our phones? Check. When our heads are tilted and down 45 degrees, we’re basically dropping 50 pounds of weight on our neck. OOF. But fear not, here are the top remedies that will help undo the damage on neck and shoulder pain. Team self care y’all.

Neck and shoulder pain
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Don’t have time? Easy fixes for neck and shoulder pain

We all have those days when our neck and shoulder muscles give up on us.  Having some self-care products handy can really make a difference. Here are some of our top picks:

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  • Heat therapy: Heat therapy can be a real game-changer. If you’re feeling tight and achy, try applying some heat to the area. A warm towel, heating pad, or a relaxing bath can do the trick. But if you’re feeling swollen and sore, it’s time to bring in the cold. Wrap up an ice pack or gel pack in a towel and give that sore muscle some relief. Unsure how to choose? Check out this article from Cleveland Clinic.  In the meantime, our top picks for microwavable heat or cold therapy pads:
    • Best value: Check out SuzziPad microwavable Heating pad. For just $20, you can give your neck and shoulder muscles its well deserved relief without sacrificing quality.  1-2 minutes in the microwave gives you 10 minutes of warmth. Plus, its simple paneled rectangular design gives you flexibility to use across multiple areas.
    • Highest rated: For less than $40,  The Relief Expert microwavable heating pad is everything you need and more.  This one is designed specifically for the neck and shoulders, wrapping the entire treatment area. Bonus: it stays heated for up to 30 minutes!
    • Most stylish: Relieve your aches while looking cute with the Gamago Huggables for $20-$40. This lavender-scented heating pad has many cuddly options to choose from – a llama, a sloth, a teddy bear, seal pup, and more! 
  • Topical Analgesics: Try the cream or gel called topical analgesics when you’re feeling achy and need some relief. They contain stuff like menthol or capsaicin that can make your skin tingle in a good way and even numb the pain.
  • Epsom Salt Baths: Take an Epsom salt bath! Epsom salt is packed with magnesium, which gets dissolved in water and absorbed into your skin. They are like a superhero for your muscles with their healing properties.
    • Best value: Amazon Basics sells epsom salt soaking aids ($4.99) in lavender, eucalyptus, and rosemary & mint. We’re feeling relaxed already.
    • Highest rated: Dr. Teal wins the most stars in this category with their salt soaking and foaming bath ($24.85) combination. Who doesn’t love bubbles?
    • Best small brand: Life Is offers a ‘Calm’ set of epsom salt baths ($23.99) so you can try different favors. These can last you months!
  • Ergonomic equipment: Get yourself a comfy ergonomic chair with good back support and adjust the height of your computer monitor to eye level. This helps to keep your neck in a neutral position, reducing strain on the muscles.
    • Best value: If you don’t want to splurge on a new chair, you can always try adding on this cushion from FORTEM ($45.99) that provides proper lumbar support.
    • Best style: If you want your chair to match the room, Kingdom offers 6 colors for their ergonomic office chair at a reasonable price of $139.99 US.
    • Highest rated: This ergonomic office chair from Mimoglad ($149.99) is the highest rated best seller with lots of built in customization options.
    • Most interesting: Luxton makes a kneeling chair ($139.95)so you can engage your core while you fix your posture.

Don’t mind the hard stuff?  Helpful routines for neck and shoulder pain

Sometimes it’s hard to admit, but it turns out that our mothers were right all along – building healthy routines and habits is the first step to avoiding muscle pain.

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  • Posture: First, make sure you’re not slouching like a couch potato all day long. Sit up straight, roll your shoulders back, and keep your neck lined up with your spine. Take a break every now and then to stand up and stretch it out. This way, your muscles won’t get all tight and tense. Plus, it’s a great excuse to take a quick break and move around a bit.
  • Water: The experts say you should be drinking around half an ounce to an ounce of water for every pound you weigh. So, if you’re tipping the scales at 150 pounds, you’ll want to aim for 75 to 150 ounces of water per day (that’s like 2 to 4 liters). But remember, this is just a general rule of thumb. Depending on your activity level, climate, and other factors, you may need more or less water to keep those muscles hydrated and happy.
  • Stretches: Stretching is also important. Consider rolling your shoulders, tilting your head from side to side, and doing neck rolls. This helps to promote good circulation, prevents injuries and also releases tension that may come from stress. 
  • Exercise: Exercise is key to keeping your muscles healthy and happy. Try some easy-going workouts like taking a stroll, biking, or hitting up the pool for a swim sesh. These low-impact exercises are easier on your muscles and can help relieve pain.

The why behind it: muscle pain

So why do our muscles act up?  Doctors of Physical Therapy say there are four main reasons: overuse, dehydration, injury, and stress:

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  • Overuse: Using the same muscles over and over without giving them a break can make them really tired and achy.
  • Dehydration: If you don’t drink enough water, your muscles can get super tight (in scientific words, our muscle fibers will contract!) and might even cramp up.
  • Injury: When your muscles get hurt, they tense up purposefully to protect you from hurting even more. 
  • Stress: Feeling stressed out can also make your muscles tighten up because your body is trying to cope with the pressure.

If you’ve been dealing with muscle pain that just won’t go away or is getting worse, it might be time to see a doctor. Sometimes muscle pain is caused by an injury or overuse, but other times it can be a sign of a more serious medical condition. If you notice other symptoms like swelling, redness, or difficulty moving the affected area, definitely give your physician a call. They’ll give you a physical exam, check your medical history, and maybe order some tests to figure out what’s going on. Treatment options can include things like medications, physical therapy, massage, or even surgery if it’s necessary to treat the underlying cause of the pain. Don’t tough it out if you’re in a lot of pain – there are options out there to help you feel better!

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